Too Close to Home

By  0 Comments

No one abusive relationship is the same as another, but in the beginning, they are very similar—happy. The abusive partner starts out as charismatic and loving and gains the other partner’s trust.

Once trust is established, the abuser begins to manipulate and control the relationship. The abuse doesn’t have to be physical, but it often is. And while the beginning of the relationship seems exciting and fun, the victim of emotional abuse gradually is groomed by the abuser to accept the abuse as “normal” and “what they deserve.” The endings are similar, too. Some victims leave, some stay and some are hurt or worse.

It’s important to understand all the faces of domestic violence. Behaviors that cause physical harm, promote fear or keep someone from doing what they want to do are all forms of abuse. Abusers often use sexual violence, threats and intimidation to control their partner. While some deprive their partner of basic economic needs such as food or money, others may insult, shame or demean the person they are supposed to be loving. Only one type of abuse may be present, but in most cases various issues occur simultaneously.

Abuse is a crime, and its consequences are extensive. Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Women ages 18 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of partner violence. One in 6 women, or 16.2 percent, and 1 in 19 men, or 5.2 percent, in the U.S. have experienced stalking at some point during their lifetime, during which they felt very frightened or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

Perhaps our casual conversations include talk about abusive relationships, but do we really understand what that means or how dangerous an abuser can be? It’s tough to know if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, especially if the abusive partner is loving one day and terrifying the next. Any treatment that damages a person’s self-worth, identity or self-confidence is considered abuse. Often the victim doesn’t even realize he or she is being abused because the abuser is very crafty in the way they incorporate it into the relationship. An abusive relationship may involve one or more of the following characteristics:

Fear of a Partner
This can include feeling that you have to walk on eggshells around your partner or continually monitor what you say in order to avoid an outburst. Bullying behavior creates fear as well.

Your partner belittles you or tries to control your time or decisions. Abusers are likely to be excessively jealous and possessive, so they isolate the person they are with by keeping them from seeing friends or family.

Violent Behavior
This can be everything from physical harm, such as hitting or sexual abuse, to threats such as saying they will take away the children or commit suicide if the partner leaves them.

Emotional Abuse
Yelling, name-calling, blaming, isolation, intimidation and controlling behavior fall under emotional abuse.

Abuse is often worse with non-traditional couples. Abusive partners in LGBTQ relationships use similar tactics to control their partners, but they may also add to these strategies by using societal factors such as “outing” their partner or convincing them that no one will help them because they are gay, bisexual or transgender.

Why do victims stay?
People who have never been in an abusive relationship often wonder why victims stay with someone who hurts them. Although there are many reasons, the most prevalent answer is the exchange of power. When a victim leaves a relationship, they are taking control and threatening the abusive partner’s power, which can cause dangerous retaliation. Abusers will apologize and often be loving after their abusive episodes, which can make it difficult for a victim to leave. Saying “Things will be different this time,” they may make the victim believe that they are the only person who truly loves them or will help them.

Countless other reasons may also keep someone in a harmful relationship. Some are belief that abuse is normal; low self esteem; fear; shame and embarrassment; love; religious or cultural mores; lack of money or resources; and fear of being outed.

If you recognize these signs or you think someone you know is being abused, say something. Expressing concern allows victims to know that someone cares and could save a life. Victims and loved ones can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or go online to for help or to determine a path to safety. Trained advocates are available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking information or questioning unhealthy parts of their relationship.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; change the word “victim” to “survivor.” ■

Sources:,,, and